Calls for inquiry into policing of miners’ strike

There were many bitter clashes between police and miners during the 1984-85 miners strike. Picture: Albert JordanThere were many bitter clashes between police and miners during the 1984-85 miners strike. Picture: Albert Jordan
There were many bitter clashes between police and miners during the 1984-85 miners strike. Picture: Albert Jordan
SCOTTISH ministers are under pressure to use their powers to order a “Hillsborough-style inquiry” into the 1984-85 miners’ strike after the police watchdog south of the Border refused to investigate alleged misconduct by officers.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it would not investigate allegations of tampering with statements made by witnesses and officers relating to clashes at the Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire, citing the “passage of time” as a reason for the decision.

However, Labour MSP Neil Findlay said the SNP government should “take the lead” and hold its own public inquiry into the dispute in Scotland, including the convictions of nearly 500 Scottish strikers in 1984-85.

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Campaigners have said the convictions may be “unsafe” and politically motivated – particularly for picket line offences, for which miners claim they were threatened with custodial sentences but offered less severe punishments if they accepted bail conditions that banned them from picketing.

Mr Findlay said Scotland was “disproportionately” affected by the bitter dispute with manyminers sacked following their arrest during the year-long strike against pit closures.

Former Midlothian Labour MP David Hamilton was a miner who spent two months in jail on remand during the strike before being cleared, but was later sacked after the dispute.

Mr Hamilton said the SNP could prove it was the “friends of working people” and “different from Westminster” by ordering an inquiry into the strike in the aftermath of last month’s general election.

South Yorkshire Police – which is already under intense scrutiny over its role in the Hillsborough disaster, at the football stadium in Sheffield which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans – faced claims that officers used “excessive force” against picketing miners, manipulated statements and gave false evidence in court.

However, IPCC deputy chair Sarah Green said: “Allegations of offences amounting to minor assaults could not be prosecuted due to the passage of time; and as many of the police officers involved in events at Orgreave are retired, no disciplinary action could be pursued.”

Mr Hamilton, who last month stepped down as an MP after 14 years in the Commons, said: “It’s outrageous that they have made this decision. The relationship between the police and the government was not an impartial one during the strike and the police were not neutral during that period.

“But the Scottish Government was not in existence at that time and if the SNP truly believes it is the friends of working people having a look at the injustices from this period would be a good way of showing it is different from Westminster.”

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Lothians MSP Mr Findlay said the onus was now on SNP ministers to take a different stance to the IPCC on the issue of an inquiry into the strike.

He said: “Despite clear evidence of police malpractice, it is clear that under this Tory government there will be no inquiry into the policing of the miners’ strike.

“Given that Scotland was disproportionately affected having only 10 per cent of the UK mining workforce yet suffering 30 per cent of dismissals following arrest, there is an opportunity for the Scottish Government to hold a ‘Hillsborough style’ inquiry into the policing of the strike and the miscarriages of justice that occurred.

“We rightly investigate historic crimes despite the passage of time and we should do so again with these cases.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “There are no plans to hold an inquiry, either into the conduct of the police or alleged wrongful criminal convictions, relating to the miners’ strike.”